JACKSONVILLE, FL (April 10, 2017) - Historically, and in literally hundreds of instances, protesters in Jacksonville have had their right to peaceably assemble protected by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office without incident. And in doing so, officers have also worked diligently protecting the rights of others who may or may not be participating in or impacted by the actions of protestors. We train for and prepare for all scenarios and events.
Friday night was no exception. We attempt to meet with those who tell us of their intention to protest. We provide guidance about the laws, our obligations, and the rights of others. As per protest planning protocol, we don’t tell groups where to go, but we do tell them what they can and cannot lawfully do – and specifically what actions may result in arrest.
These events are fluid, and sadly, can become volatile. Agitators, aggressors, those whose goal is to disrupt peaceful protests may engage with groups and cause the situation to degenerate rapidly.
The obligation to behave lawfully rests with every individual involved. We encourage organizers to educate members of a group and warn them of the behaviors that are not lawful and how to not engage in conflict and confrontations, and instead respond with a calm and peaceful demeanor.
Those who exercise their right to peaceably assemble and protest as responsible adults, regardless of the environment that develops, must refrain from physical violence towards one another or the police. Shoving, spitting on, kicking, hitting, grabbing, depriving an officer of his or her ability to communicate and perform their duties is against the law and will result in an arrest every time. We are obligated to respond to resistance and violence with that force necessary to overcome the resistance.
We take reasonable precautions to protect those attempting to engage in peaceful demonstrations. But, as a result of Friday night’s criminal activity, there is a new dynamic involved in Jacksonville that has prompted me to look at how we manage protests. I am working with my leadership team to determine what new protocols may be put into place to successfully manage these events moving forward.
We encourage any group who is planning to gather in assembly or protest in a public arena to contact their Zone Office, so we can work together to ensure a safe and lawful outcome.
Sheriff, Duval County FL